Cartography in the Ming

Authored by: Kenneth J. Hammond

The Ming World

Print publication date:  August  2019
Online publication date:  August  2019

Print ISBN: 9781138190986
eBook ISBN: 9780429318719
Adobe ISBN:


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The making, publishing, and distribution of maps were integral parts of the information culture of imperial China, with a long history and a wide range of practices. The idea of a map is not a simple or straightforward thing in Chinese culture, as there existed a broad spectrum of graphic imagery which was grouped under the term tu. Some such images would be clearly recognizable to a modern Western viewer as what we think of as a map, while others might seem more like a picture or a diagram. Scholars of cartography offer a variety of definitions of what constitutes a map, and there is some consensus on core features. For the purposes of this essay a map will be defined as a graphic representation of a physical space which provides some selected information to allow a viewer to understand that space in a particular way. How a map is rendered involves decisions about what to include as well as what will be excluded in the image, and these decisions can be affected by a multiplicity of factors, agendas or interests on the part of the cartographer, the sponsor of an image, or the publisher or distributor of a map, either as a separate item or as part of a larger text or other compiled product. 1

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